Calcium and vitamin D are the major nutrients that are linked to bone health. People following vegan and plant-based meal plans can have calcium from legumes, cruciferous vegetables, dark green leafy vegetables, and foods that are fortified with nutrients. Having a well-planned vegan diet that includes various types of calcium-rich foods can help meet the calcium needs of a person. Our body can absorb calcium present in green leafy vegetables better than that present in cow milk.
Vegans need to have clear and evidence-based details about calcium and ways to ensure that it is from plant-based food preparation. Some of the studies show that vegans are at an increased risk of bone fracture when compared to others. However, a closer look at these studies reveals that the risk of fracture was not due to veganism but due to the absence of enough calcium in their diets. This means that vegans are not at an increased risk of bone fractures or thinning.
For various reasons, people following vegan and plant-based meal plans may skip on calcium which can make them susceptible to decreased bone density. If adequate amounts of calcium are consumed in a vegan diet, there will not be any risks of bone fracture.
Why Some Vegans Are Not Getting Enough Calcium?
Why do vegans get less calcium than others? One of the factors might be the circulation of misconceptions within the vegan community. There are misconceptions that vegans are protected against bone loss, as these diets are more alkaline than the other diets. Some of the older studies conducted on this subject show that more acid-forming diets can result in bone resorption, which is the loss of calcium from bones. However, the latest studies and research does not support this. Instead, they suggest that the alkalinity or acidity of a diet does not have much impact on the health of bones. This means that having an alkaline diet does not offer any type of bone protection.
Moreover, many people who follow a vegan diet believe that protein is acid-forming, which can be bad for their bone health. However, the opposite is true. Protein in your food has a protective effect on the bone matrix. Therefore, it is important for us to ensure adequate protein intake from our diets, to have healthy and strong bones.
Some vegans do not have a clear idea about the sources of calcium. For instance, some vegans believe that baby spinach and salads are good sources of calcium and include more of these items in their diet. However, these are not good sources of calcium and spinach has high oxalate content that can block the absorption of calcium. The leafy greens that can offer the most calcium include mustard, kale, collards, turnip greens, and bok choy. You can add these into salads to ensure proper calcium intake. To ensure proper calcium intake, it is important for those following plant-based meal plans to add a wide range of crucifers and green leafy veggies to their diet.
Some vegans are also not comfortable having fortified food items like orange juice, cereal, tofu, or non-dairy milk. This might be because they are not comfortable with relying on sources of nutrients that are not “natural.” However, as a vegan, you should not feel any pressure to avoid food items that are fortified with minerals and nutrients. Fortification has an important role to play in the diets of many people, irrespective of their diet plans. Most of us ensure the intake of vitamin D via fortification. Dairy milk is fortified with vitamin D, just like plant milk is. Fortified foods are available in the market to help us ensure healthful eating. We might not need them to be healthy, but there is no reason to avoid these food items if they can help us acquire nutrients easily.
Ensuring Enough Calcium In A Vegan Diet
How can vegans ensure that they are having nutrients to have good bone health? First off, it is important to have an idea about the recommended daily allowance. As per the latest recommendations, it is 1,000 mg of calcium daily for women between the ages of nineteen and fifty, and 1,200 mg for women about the age of fifty. The recommended daily allowance for kids and teenagers is 1,300 mg of calcium per day. You should aim to have at least this much calcium from your diet. These recommendations are offered after assuming that our body will absorb about 30% of the calcium that we have from our foods.
Plant-based food items like fortified soy, almond or rice milk, orange juice, collard greens, turnip greens, fortified breakfast cereal, mustard greens, tahini, bok choy, tempeh, dried figs, kale, oats, firm tofu, shelled edamame, silken tofu, almonds, and almond butter are good sources of calcium that you can include in your diet to ensure proper calcium intake.